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Infectious Diseases

13 October 2020

THE NUMBERS | Over a million Covid-19 deaths globally - but what about other diseases?

The influenza death rate is only half that of Covid-19.

  • The number of Covid-19 deaths passed the one million mark this week
  • This is almost on par with some other top global killers
  • One research institute estimates that we will reach 2.8 million deaths by the end of 2020

Recently global Covid-19 deaths passed the one million mark – less than 10 months after the first official death recorded in Wuhan.

While this number is suspected to be a lot higher due to differing classifications between countries and underreporting, it's a sobering figure as the battle against the pandemic continues.

In South Africa, the official total number of coronavirus deaths is over 16 000, with 33 000 unaccounted excess deaths between May and August this year.

READ | Covid-19: What we know about SA’s 33 000 excess deaths so far 

Other diseases

How does this global death rate compare to other diseases?

While the top killers (heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease) remain far higher, Covid-19 numbers are close to tuberculosis, lung cancer and diabetes. 

Unsurprisingly, during the same nine months, the yearly death toll from the flu is less than half of that of Covid-19. At the start of the pandemic, one of the popular arguments against lockdown measures was that the virus killed fewer people than influenza, but this has been debunked countless times. 

READ MORE | Covid-19 deaths: Surprise findings on smoking and other insights from study of 17m patients 

See the numbers below:

infographic comparing covid-19 deaths to other dis

Infographic: Gabi Zietsman/Canva

End-of-year numbers

What will the Covid-19 death toll look like at the end of the year? At the beginning of September, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) released some controversial numbers that predicted two million deaths in the best-case scenario, 2.8 million as the most likely scenario, and four million in the worst-case scenario.

Some experts, however, refute this, criticising the assumption that the death rate will be the same now as it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals are now better equipped to treat patients with Covid-19, and many advancements have been made to increase survival.

On the flip-side, the estimates include accounting for underreported numbers.

The reality is we'll only know the true figures once we get to the end of this momentous year.

READ | The forgotten killers: Covid-19 destroying gains made in the fight against malaria, TB

Image credit: Pixabay